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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 4, 1995


The Oval Office

10:06 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I always like to hear from young people across our country. After all, they're at the heart of our efforts to build America up, to face the demands and the challenges of the 21st century. The responsibility of my generation is to leave those young people a better world, and to make sure that they're prepared to succeed in that world.

I was especially touched by a letter I recently received from a 15-year-old girl named Melissa, who lives in a small town in the Midwest. Even though she's only 15 and she lives in America's heartland, she's a recovering drug addict. She's been drug-free for two years now, but she still sees other children going down the road to drug abuse, and she's very worried.

This is what she wrote to me: "It seems there's just not enough help, and when there is help, there's not enough money to do what needs to be done. Let's help this problem so it's not so big for the next generation." We ought to listen to Melissa. From our smallest towns to our biggest cities, millions of our children face the temptation of illegal drugs everyday in their schools. Surveys show that unfortunately more and more of our adolescents are using illegal drugs. Kids today are somehow not getting the message. They are beginning once again to think that it's all right to use drugs, that they're not really dangerous. But they're wrong. Too often, they're dead wrong.

Now, think about what this means for our communities and for our country, for all the rest of us. Illegal drugs go hand in hand with violence. They foster fear. School children stay home by the thousands every day because they are afraid. And in this kind of environment, even the best-behaved young people have a tough time learning. That means our standards of education are being undermined by drugs and violence. And that hurts our ability as a nation to compete and win. So we all pay a price.

The first line of defense, of course, has to be in our communities -- with our parents and teachers and our neighbors, other role models in law enforcement and the religious community -- telling our young people in no uncertain terms that drugs and violence are wrong, and helping them to stay away or to get off. I know that.

But we here in Washington have a responsibility, too. All of you know there's a big debate going on in Washington now about what the role of the government ought to be. The Republican Contract says we should cut just about everything to pay for big tax cuts that go mostly to upper income people. Well, I think we should cut government. We have. There are over 150,000 fewer people working here than there were when I took office. I think we ought to reduce the burden of unnecessary regulation, and we are.

But I think we need a government that's lean and not mean, one that offers opportunity and challenges people to be more responsible; one that's a partner in increasing opportunity, empowering people to make the most of their own lives, and providing more security for our people. The fight against drugs and the fight for safe schools does all of that.

After all, leaders of both parties have seen this as a problem that can't be ignored in Washington. President Reagan and President Bush invested in initiatives for drug-free schools. And last year, working with members of Congress of both parties, our administration expanded the Safe and Drug-free Schools Program to include violence prevention and security. We passed legislation that sends $482 million to the states -- enough for efforts in over 90 percent of our school districts.

Communities are using this money in a lot of different ways. They are using it to pay for police officers and metal detectors to keep our schools safer, to train teachers, staff and students on how to resolve conflicts without violence, to help guide young people in fighting peer pressure to use drugs, to help instruct parents on the warning signs of drug use. All of this is a very good and sound investment for our future. It's Washington being a good partner with people building their communities at the grass-roots level.

The schools taking part wouldn't give up these safeguards. If anything, they want more help. But now, some Republicans in Congress want to completely eliminate our safe schools and anti-drug efforts. Right now, Congress is considering a rescission bill that cuts out the money we passed last year for all these programs.

I am concerned that the Republicans are willing to sacrifice our children's safety and our ability to learn in secure environments to pay for these tax cuts for upper income Americans. That's not a good deal for America's children, for America's future -- it's not a good deal for upper income Americans. It's not putting people first. It won't help to restore the American Dream, to advance the economic interests of the middle class to support mainstream values. They're trying to cut other things that I don't support, either. They're trying to cut the crime bill we passed last year to provide 100,000 police on our streets and to cut other education programs.

Now, I know we've got to reduce the deficit. We've already brought it down by over $600 billion under the tough plan we passed last year and the year before. And I've given Congress a budget that has another $140 billion of spending cuts. I'll work with them to find more, but not in education or jobs or the safety of our children. We need to be expanding opportunity up here, not restricting it. We need to be giving our people the tools they need to make the most of their own lives, not taking them away. We need to enhance our security, not undermine it.

And where our children are concerned, we've got to give them the best chance we can to develop their God-given abilities so they can do the rest. They've got to stay in school, stay out of trouble, stay off drugs and off the streets. But young people, given a chance, can overcome great obstacles.

Look at young Melissa. Now she's gotten herself a second chance to become a first-class citizen. We need more young people like her for their strength, their intelligence their humanity. We don't have a one to waste. And our young people need us to have the vision and the strength to do what's best for their futures today.

Thanks for listening.

END10:12 A.M. EST